We're on to the last 2016 season award for the Cincinnati Bengals and it's the most prominent among the slew of others we've rolled out this offseason. This year's team MVP features a combination of nominees from the three units, all players who have impressed in the various phases of the games this past season.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals' 2016 Most Valuable Player? Cast your vote and sound off on your winner!
Quarterback Andy Dalton: Even though the Bengals' quarterback didn't have quite the explosive season this year, as opposed to 2015, he still had a 90-plus rating and the second-best output of passing yards in Bengals' franchise history with 4,206 in 2016. Even though the big plays were limited because of injuries to stars, Dalton only had eight interceptions in 16 games, which is what you want out of a starting quarterback.
Wide Receiver A.J. Green: It's hard to give the nod to a player who only played in just over 10 games in a season, but when your star wideout still has 66 catches, 964 yards and four touchdowns in that limited scope, one has to give him a bit of a nod. Players filled in while he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, but his vacancy was totally noticeable during the Bengals' late-season attempt at a playoff berth.
Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth: It's almost at the point where even if Whitworth had an average year, you'd still nominate him for this award. Whitworth was once again one of the best left tackles in the NFL and despite the Bengals' offensive line giving up 41 sacks this year, hardly any were his doing. Whitworth has been elected to the Pro Bowl, after some players eschewed the invite, but he has still been top-10 lineman in the NFL by Pro Football Focus' metrics (he was PFF's No. 2 OT this year) and remains one of the best linemen the Bengals have ever drafted.
Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins: Cincinnati's defense was dominant in the second half of the season. After a bit of a slow start to the season, coinciding with the rest of the defense, Atkins became a Pro Bowl player after racking up 4.5 sacks in the final four weeks of the season. He probably would have stood out more if his surrounding cast took advantage of his taking on of double-teams and triple-teams, but he still had the third-best sack output of his career in 2016 and more sacks than any other defensive tackle.
Defensive End Carlos Dunlap: Like Atkins, Dunlap didn't have quite the year he had in 2015, but he made up from certain statistical deficiencies by impressing in other areas. He racked up eight sacks, but also had a whopping 15 passes defended, which ranks among some of the best in NFL cornerbacks, and far above any other defensive end. Despite the inconsistencies on the defense this year, both Atkins and Dunlap have been solid mainstays and both will be playing in the Pro Bowl.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict: When a player only gets on the field for 11 games, it's hard to nominate him for a team MVP, but Burfict's impact on the defense can't be denied. If you're the type of fan that looks at the performances of the team in the absence of stars, Burfict is a guy Cincinnati fans readily point to when he's absent. Even with his missing of three games at the beginning of the year, Burfict had a huge impact, as evidenced by his five straight games of 10-plus tackles in Weeks 8-13. He finished 2016 with 101 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
Kick/Punt Returner Alex Erickson: Special teams is always a forgotten facet of football, but Erickson ended up having a good year for the Bengals. After a slow start, Erickson finished first in kick return yards in 2016, as well as second in yards per kick return--all in his rookie year. Even though his biggest returns came in games where Cincinnati went 0-1-1, he put his team in position to move the ball quite often, especially in the second half of the season.